Dotson Iron Castings Donates its Company Archives to Southern Minnesota Historical Center at University

May 11, 2021 | Featured

Pictured at a presentation of Dotson Iron Castings company archives to the Southern Minnesota Historical Center at Minnesota State University, Mankato are (from left to right) Denny Dotson, chairman of Dotson Iron Castings; Richard Davenport, University president; Brian Fors, contract historian and archivist; and Daardi Sizemore Mixon, University archivist and special collections librarian. Photo courtesy of Bobby Duehring.

Mankato, Minn. – Minnesota State University, Mankato President Richard Davenport announced that Dotson Iron Castings, which has operated an iron foundry in Mankato for more than 140 years, has donated its company archival records to the Southern Minnesota Historical Center at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“We are grateful to Denny Dotson and Dotson Iron Castings for donating this significant archival gift to the Southern Minnesota Historical Center at Minnesota State Mankato and entrusting us with making these records available for future generations of students and scholars,” said Davenport. “Dotson Iron Castings has been integral in making the greater Mankato area a great place to live and work for more than 140 years, and these archives will be a valuable tool in telling the story of the company’s contribution to our region.”

The Dotson Iron Castings gift is the largest single donation of its kind to the Southern Minnesota Historical Center in the past 20 years.

“It is exciting to see these unique historical documents moved to a location where others, especially students, will have access to the collection,” said Denny Dotson, chairman of Dotson Iron Castings. “Minnesota State Mankato, with its Southern Minnesota Historical Center, is the perfect spot for these records.”

According to Dotson, the history of his family’s company began in 1876, when Laurentius Mayer started a blacksmith shop in downtown Mankato. Mayer was soon joined by his three sons, and for 40 years the Mayer family built a business that produced more than 500 tractors, nearly 20,000 power forging hammers and even one car, said Dotson. Dotson’s grandfather was hired to run the company, and he eventually purchased the company.

“My family has operated the company for the past 100 years and saw the operations become one of the best and most automated foundries in the world,” said Dotson. “These documents highlight the people along with the ups and downs throughout the company’s history.” 

The archive donation consists of 65 linear feet of company papers, including correspondence, subject files, contracts, financial records, incorporation documents, ledgers, production data, employee-related records, engineering drawings and photographs from the three main manifestations of the company. Those include Mayer Brothers, Little Giant Company and the Dotson Company.

The donation will also include oral histories with the two past presidents of the company and some family records. Potential artifact donations are being discussed.

The donation has already been arranged and preserved to meet the archival standards of the Southern Minnesota Historical Center, significantly reducing the time needed to make the collection available to researchers. The advance organization and archiving were done by a contract historian and archivist, Brian Fors, hired by Dotson.

“When Brian first saw the thousands of documents in hundreds of boxes, he immediately recognized that the collection had great significance,” said Dotson. “There are very few small manufacturing companies that have such a complete history.”

For more information about the gift, contact Daardi Sizemore Mixon, university archivist and special collections librarian, by phone at 507-389-5949 or by email at daardi.mixon@mnsu.edu.

Minnesota State Mankato, a comprehensive university with 14,604 students, is part of the Minnesota State system, which includes 30 colleges and seven universities.

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